"We Do A Disservice By Using A Moshul Like That"
(Picture courtesy of Shomron.org.il)
Chabakuk Elisha commenting on Understanding Lech Lecha:
Do you not think that it's kind of forced illustration?
Personally, I understand Lech Lecha more like this: Imagine a man who has a close relationship with G-d for many decades – he was tested and rose to the occasion on many occasions – G-d even publicly saved him from certain death (according to most opinions). He has devoted his life to teaching belief in G-d.
He’s no youngster, and suddenly G-d tells him:
Ok, change in plans; it’s time to go. Don’t ask where – it will be fine, and this way less people will want to come with you.
The man says, it’s all about You, G-d. I’m ready willing and able to go… and he does. He packs up and heads out of town.
"Where are you going" they ask. "Wherever G-d wants,” he answers.
He has been telling people about G-d forever, I don’t know if they were all that shocked now. The time had come for change, and for change to happen he needs to make a physical change as well… he needs to change location, cultures, food, water, mazal, everything. In this case change is good, and so he goes – but he doesn’t go for any reason beside one: He really believes. G-d is real and live, the reasons don’t matter, only G-d’s will matters.
You see, that’s who Avrohom is. But I think we often misunderstand what was unique about the first Jew. What makes Avrohom so special anyway?
G-d was a not new concept, and this very same G-d wasn’t M.I.A. - There was this huge mabul not all that long ago, and the great dispersion was during Avrohom’s life. Noach, Shem & Ever were busy teaching about G-d & Torah for hundreds of years – and I imagine that they had many students as well. So what was the groundbreaking discovery or significant element that made Avrohom so special? The difference was what is called “Daas.”
Avrohom took his religion seriously – unlike ever before. When he considered the sun as G-d, he served it with devotion – but at night it left him empty and alone. How could he go on without G-d? The same problem with the moon, or any other possible G-d that he crossed off his list. Others were unable to understand his problem: “So? Pray to multiple gods” they said. They had no problem: so what if each god wasn’t all powerful? But Avrohom did. He was looking for the real thing and he meant it – he couldn’t be satisfied unless he could experience G-d on the level of daas – he had to know Him, have a relationship with Him and devote himself to Him.
The word daas (commonly translated as knowledge) reflects true knowing. For example, the verse uses the term daas to connote intimacy, as in “Adam knew Chava.” Avrohom took belief in G-d to a new level; to him it was far more real, it was the level of daas. So can we compare this to R’ Parkoff’s example? Can we relate to Avrohom’s “Lech Lecha?”
I dunno, but in my opinion we do a disservice by using a moshul like that...
Smashed Hat comments:
The mashul sounds like one of those famous Novhardiker "tests" that the baalei mussar used to put themselves through in order to develop their midas ha'bitochon or to improve their midos, etc. Surely Avraham Avinu was a shining example to us of emunah u'bitochon.
To respond to CE, though, another great midah of Avraham Avinu was his kiruv efforts. I'm not so sure that Shem v'Ever lacked the midas ha'da'as that you zero in on (which certainly Avraham Avinu also possessed to a high degree). Yet Shem v'Ever, as great as they were, had their quiet little yeshivah, while Avraham Avinu went out of his way to bring people back to Hashem, even ovdei avodah zora (whom we, too, might be required to work with if not for the spiritual risks involved).
So I would submit that this was the outstanding trait of the first of the Avos: "l'man da'as KOL 'AMEI HA'ARETZ ki Hashem hu ha-Elokim, ein ode!"